growth and gratitude
Growth and Gratitude is a large mixed media artwork that I created in response to an open call brief from Gwent Arts in Health (Garth), a charity which promotes and develops an arts and health programme for the patients and general public in healthcare and community settings throughout the Aneurin Bevan Health Board.
The brief which was written especially for Creative and Therapeutic Arts students at the University of South Wales, was to create a series of 13 framed artworks which were to be professionally exhibited in St Woolos Hospital, Newport in May 2020. However, owing to the Covid-19 pandemic, the exhibition was delayed until May 2021 where the artworks were exhibited online at Neville Hall hospital.
In addition to the brief, Studio Response (a professional partner and public art broker who aims to bring people together to produce thought-provoking, site-responsive art in the public realm) commissioned 3 artworks to be displayed in the new Grange Hospital in Cwmbran, and I am extremely proud that my artwork was one of the three chosen.
In conducting research for the brief, I consulted with staff, patients and visitors at St Woolos whose feedback informed the entire art making process. Of particular interest was the nature of growth as individuals and organisations, and the diversity of roles that go into making the hospital work including Hotel Services, Porters, Catering and the many others who work in support of healthcare professionals. I also took inspiration from the natural spaces within the hospital grounds and surrounding areas and was particularly interested in the variety of trees.
This led me to explore the symbolism of the Oak Tree (which has personal meaning to me as my daughter’s name is Elana which is Hebrew for Oak Tree). Thus, the artwork is a huge mixed media tree of life on canvas measuring 1.25m in height and 1m wide. I have used a variety of nostalgic fabrics cut into oak leaf shapes and buttons which represent the various colours of the NHS uniforms and the branches of the tree were created from black zips. Some of the leaves have been embroidered by hand and embellished to create further texture and interest.
During my research, I came across the beautiful poem titled “The Oak Tree” by Johnny Ray Ryder which symbolises growth, strength and gratitude in times of adversity, which I thought patients, staff and visitors could relate to. I also thought about how patients and their families are grateful to the hard work of the NHS staff, particularly at a time when the pandemic put significant stress upon the entire NHS. I took and extract from the poem and included this is the background of the artwork which is made from torn sections of coffee-stained paper, again a nod to the staff who I believe drink several cups of coffee during their shift.
I completed the artwork by adding a small heart at the base of the tree with the initials NHS sewn into the centre, expressing further gratitude - thank you NHS!
Growth and Gratitude, 2020 - Louise Westgarth
For further information about the professional partners involved in this project visit: